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St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School
Spiritual Life Review February 2019

Mission Statement
‘Christ is at the centre of our school community where we live, love and learn together.’

Jubilee Year
‘Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever’

Mission 2013
‘A journey to encounter Christ’


1. Year of Faith

The Year of Faith was launched in House assemblies by Richard Smith and this also created was a great platform to share with the students some of the exciting ways we could explore, express and deepen our faith through the Mission Week and our 50th Jubilee Year events and celebrations.

In February the school hosted the diocesan talk for teachers lead by Archbishop Bernard. His was a great opportunity to come together and reflect on the teaching from scripture.

Father Jan was the lead in organising

the three Year of Faith Talks and led us brilliantly on our first evening 12 March 2013.

Year of Faith – ‘Journey to Jerusalem’ - 12 March 2013
Tuesday evening saw another Year of Faith event at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School. School Chaplin Fr Jan Nowotnik came to give a photo talk of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Being Lent, Father focused on both his and Jesus' ‘journey to Jerusalem', intertwining his own personal experiences and journey with faith with Jesus' own journey in Holy Week. A deeply moving evening was brought to life with Fr Jan's personal photographs. Each photo was put into context and enabled the audience to understand Jesus' own journey through Jerusalem leading to the Passion. Fr Jan encouraged everyone to consider the relevance of the Passion in today's broken world, and the hope that Christ's message brings.

There was to be two further Year of Faith Talks in the Summer and Autumn term but unfortunately these did not take place due to speakers not able to make the dates.


2. Charity Partner BrushStrokes

The Charity Committee in June 2012 started the journey of seeking applications from local, national and international charities to be our Golden Jubilee Charity. This was a great undertaking with over 30 applications received. The Charity selection panel had representatives from staff, students, parents and governors. The charities applications were short-listed to three and the next stage of the process was for each charity to present their bid to the panel. Each of the charities had worthy needs and could work effectively with the school. But Brushstroke won the bid due to the potential it offered for partnership work and engagement with the school.

Visit to Brushstrokes - 16 November 2012
On Friday 16 November, accompanied by Mr Smith, we travelled to Smethwick, to visit Brushstrokes, our Golden Jubilee Year Charity Partner. Brushstrokes won the bid, competing against two other amazing charities: Narthex and WaterAid. We were greeted at the centre with a warm welcome and it was great to meet all the staff. Seeing the food bank, the mother and baby area and the learning rooms for ESOL gave us an insight into the work they do.

Brushstrokes is a community project that aims to help and support people in the neighbourhood of Smethwick who are in difficulties, in particular helping asylum seekers and refugees. As well as the food bank, the charity offers advice, support in the form of essentials such as clothes and nappies for babies and young children, as well as a scheme called ESOL, which helps refugees and asylum seekers to learn English, which they would not be able to do otherwise without sufficient funding.
We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the charity and finding out more about the good work they do within the community. I think we speak on behalf of the school community when we say we look forward greatly to working with this charity in 2013!

Orla Lenehan and Chris Pakes
Year 13 Students

Brushstrokes Visit - 8 January 2013
On Tuesday 8 January 2013 Mr Smith, Anne-Marie Tibbits, Mr Ingram, and seven students visited our Jubilee Charity Brushstrokes in Smethwick. The students represented their Houses in their roles as ‘Charity Captains', giving them all an opportunity to learn about the support Brushstrokes offers.
Teresa Clements, the Brushstrokes Manager, warmly welcomed our group and introduced several staff and volunteers.

The Charity Captains' brief is to identify which areas of supporting Brushstrokes they would recommend their House concentrates its fundraising efforts on this year. Each House will focus on different aspects, for example one House may focus on raising money to buy food items for the food bank, or collecting items to ensure the bank is fully stocked. Another House may concentrate on the ESOL project, assisting with the creation of resources or raising funds to purchase sets of resources.
For the students of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, this partnership with Brushstrokes is a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people living in Birmingham.
Mr Ingram

Teresa Clements, the Director of Brushstrokes was one of the providers over the Mission Week who presented the theme ‘Walk a mile in their shoes’. This was an opportunity for student to gain insight into the work of the charity. Teresa visited school and lead assemblies with each of the Houses as a means of introducing the work that the charity does to support those in need in our local community..

Lenten Charities
This further enabled each Head of Houses to launch their focus for the Lenten Charity through assemblies.
Romero/Bosco - Mother and Baby Supplies
More/Teresa/Newman - Recourses for Language Development
John Paul/Fisher
- Emergency Crisis Fund
Martin - Interpersonal and Social Development Fund

Some examples of the ways the students raised money over the Lenten period:

Lenten Charities Bag Pack - 2 March 2013
On Saturday 53 students from Bosco and Teresa House and 11 staff carried out a bag pack at Sainsbury's in Selly Oak as part of the Lenten Charity Appeal. The day was a huge success with £1,439.90 being raised for Brushstrokes, the school's Jubilee charity, which supports refugees and asylum seekers within the West Midlands. It was pleasing to see so many students embracing the spirit of Lent and giving up their time generously to help those in need.

Brushstrokes Charity Fun Run - 19 March 2013
On Tuesday 19 March 2013 staff and students got together raise funds for the Jubilee Charity Partner ‘Brushstrokes' with a sponsored walk along the ‘Yellow Brick Road'.
Students and staff donned fancy dress costumes and makeup for a fun walk in the freezing weather; all houses, year groups and faculties were well represented as three hundred frozen feet strode out of school supported by our local Police Community Support Officers.

This is just one of many fundraising activities currently being undertaken as part of the School's Lenten Charity Appeal, the funds are still be counted!

Autumn Raffle - 3 December 2013
Raising money for ‘Brushstrokes'
Once again, our students and parents have given generosity this year despite the financial climate in the country and Christmas approaching, our parents and children showed the real meaning of Christmas in a wonderful effort which brought in £7771. The team spirit amongst all the Houses has been outstanding as usual during the past 4 weeks with the students doing their best, supported by parents and form tutors who constantly encouraged.

A really big thank you and well done to all concerned.

Christmas Jumpers Day - 19 December 2013
Today, Aquinas was gripped with the festive fever as staff and students swapped their usual attire for Christmas jumpers and accessories. Everybody looked fabulous and the day was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The RE faculty were particularly impressive; they took the theme to a new level dressing up as Nativity characters. It was a fantastic day and the proceeds from the day will go to support our Jubilee Charity, Brushstrokes. Gemma Baker (Year 12)

A Great Cheque for Brushstrokes – 20 December 2013
After the Christmas Mass the school were proud to hand over a cheque for £13,500.00 to Teresa Clements Director of Brushstrokes, our Golden Jubilee Charity in 2013

From the beginning of the process of finding a worthy charity to have as our Jubilee Charity Brushstroke demonstrated great potential to fully enthuse and engage our school. They had a strong application and presentation with many staff/volunteers from the various aspects of the charitable work they conduct sharing how they could work with the school. Unfortunately in early January 2013 much funding was cut from the staffing and resource budget and this left Teresa Clement very understaffed and with the sole responsibility to attend all school events and lead assemblies.

Teresa made great efforts to enthuse and engage the student as she is very passionate about the work of Brushstrokes. But at times was unable to attend some key opportunities for the charities profile to be elevated further.

Overall the impact of Brushstrokes on the students was minimal and considerably less than proposed in their bid leaving the Heads of Houses/Form Tutors to work extra hard to drive the fundraising activities and events throughout the year.

Richard Smith
Acting Deputy Headteacher


3. Mission Week 2013 - What An Incredible Experience!

After many months of planning, countless meetings and lots of prayer the great day arrived on Monday morning with our Feast Day and the Opening Service. Mr Smith led us through a wonderful occasion introducing us to a range of visitors including Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Youth for Christ (Rock Band), Guvna B (Christian Rapper), Steve Murray (Mime Artist) and many more. A great start and the scene was set for an incredible week.

Our Visitors

Throughout the week we had over 100 visitors who came to lead our Mission. Some of them were with us for four whole days, others for a shorter time but each and every one made an impact. Guvna B, the Christian Rapper from London was a big hit with hundreds of students as was Steve Murray, the amazing Mime Artist who had not changed a bit in the 7 years since the last Mission. Youth for Christ the Christian Rock Band were also very popular with numerous students. Remarkably though and most memorably, it was Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal who probably made the greatest impact of all. Dressed in their full habit it was inspirational to see their joy in living out their vocation to the full. It was clear that they enjoyed the week as much as the students and their infectious enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone. The sight of nuns giving hundreds of students the high fives on their way into Mass will live long in the memory!

Our Students

We have 1247 students at St Thomas Aquinas and not every single one was perfect on every single occasion but, as Fr Sebastian reminded us on Monday morning, that is what makes us human. The overwhelming majority of our students were fantastic and embraced the amazing opportunities available to them to the full. Archbishop Bernard and countless providers told us time and time again how impressed they were with the response of our students, their enthusiasm and their generosity. I am nearly always proud of our students especially when they are representing our school in countless different ways. Over the past week I was immensely proud of them. I know that they will never forget Mission Week 2013 for the rest of their lives.

Our Staff

A huge thank you to 150 staff who entered into the spirit of Mission Week in a truly wonderful way. From Pauline who kept all our visitors fed, watered and entertained to the RE Faculty who were a beacon throughout the week and all those who prepared long and hard for the Mission a huge thank you. Of course, as in all these things particular responsibility falls to certain key people. Well done to our Lay Chaplain, Anne Marie Tibbitts who worked tirelessly for months before and throughout the week to make it such a success. And of course, the man himself, Mr Richard Smith, our Head of RE and Assistant Headteacher responsible for our Catholic Life. He inspired the whole school community to achieve what sometimes appeared to be an impossible task.

Our Local Parishioners

We were not sure how many adults from our local parishes would join us when we planned the Mission programme. Tuesday night was bleak and miserable but we need not have worried. We were delighted to welcome 150 visitors who chose to join Steve Murray or Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters or listen to David McGloughlin from Newman University College. In the event it did not matter because the feedback from all three was superb. And the following night there were even more as about 180 local parishioners joined us. Once again the Franciscans and Steve Murray were available as was a prayer session Taize style and the incredible life story of Fr Michael Ho and his escape from Vietnam and vocation to the priesthood. If anything, Wednesday was even more successful than Tuesday and we were left with countless people asking for more in the future. Watch this space!

Our Archbishop and Our School Chaplain

What a privilege it was to welcome His Grace Archbishop Bernard for the final Mass. It was clear that he loved being with us and afterwards he had time for absolutely everyone he met. We are truly blessed that he is the Shepherd of our Flock. And a huge thank you too to Fr Jan, our School Chaplain who played such a key role throughout the Mission. We thank him for all he does for us day in and day out. Thank you Father.

Jim Foley


4. Jubilee Masses

Golden Jubilee Mass - 6 July 2013

It was clear from the start of the planning for the School’s Jubilee celebrations that the thanksgiving Mass would be a central part of the day. Much preparation and planning took place, particularly over the build-up in the last few weeks, to make the Mass a fitting celebration of the school’s 50 years.

A number of priests who have connections to the school were invited to concelebrate the Mass, from former students and chaplains to local Parish Priests. On the day we were blessed with the presence of no fewer than ten priests led by the Vicar General and former Tommy's student, (1981 - 1986), Monsignor Timothy Menezes. The other Priests present were Fr. Jan Nowotnik, our School Chaplain and Parish Priest of St Brigid's; Fr. George Grynowski, Parish Priest of St John Fisher; Fr. David Barry, Parish Priest of St Joseph's and St Paul's; Fr. Seamus Hetherton, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima; former chaplain, Fr Stefan Laszczyk; former students, Fr. Eamonn Corduff and Fr. Gerry Lennon; and former Aquinas teachers, Fr. Frank Smith and Fr. Bill Wilton. During the Mass Monsignor Tim delivered a wonderful homily, that was greatly appreciated, full of profound insights but also much good humour about his experiences of attending ‘Tommies’.

Before Mass began there was an introduction, read by former staff, Isabel O’Connell and Marie Lovatt, This was followed by a procession, symbolising the light of faith in the school, read by long serving teacher, Mary Samuel. In the procession 3 experienced past and present staff, Paul Toal, Marion Yates and Don Deneny processed with candles symbolising the light of faith, accompanying them was head boy, Sam Allen, carrying the statue of St Thomas Aquinas. 3 members of staff, Jude Devlin, James Ingram and Sarah Lattimer, who had attended St Thomas Aquinas school as students, then processed and lit their candles from the experienced staff candles. They in turned passed on their light to 3 students from year 7, 8 and 9, John Hardy, Hannah Kenny and Charlotte Behan.


During the procession former staff, students, governors and Chaplains that had served the school and have now passed away were remembered, with the school's Book of Remembrance being brought forward by John Houston, head of PE and former student, and placed at the foot of the Altar along with a large crucifix, carried by former Assistant Head, Wendy Tinsley, and accompanied by a candle carried by student, Hershey Abrina. It was a moving start to a memorable and beautiful Mass.

Other past and present staff and students took part in the Mass. The servers were students Gemma Baker, Sam O’Neill and Annmerlin Johnson, Other participants included former Deputy Head, Bernard O’Connell who read the first reading, Liz James, head of year 13, who read the Responsorial Psalm and Tara Carter, former student and now maths teacher, Sarah Lay, assistant head and Haydn Cadogan, student, read the Bidding Prayers.

It would not be right if the choir did not get a special mention. A 40 strong student choir led the singing in the Mass and had worked very hard to learn new pieces and the Mass setting, which was the Mass of St. Bernadette, written by the late Mike Stanley. The Choir was very ably led by Martina Moran, RE teacher and the piano was played by former student and music teacher Emma Bentley, who had very generously agreed to give up her own time to rehearse and play the piano, despite being on maternity leave at the time. Other musicians were Assistant Head, Richard Smith, on guitar and Haydn Cadogan, student, on violin.

Following Communion there was a very moving moment when the choir sang a Communion reflection, called ‘Christ, our Lord forever’, written especially for the jubilee celebrations by former student, Hugh Tibbits.

The Mass really was the most wonderful celebration full of joy and thanks for the many blessings bestowed on St Thomas Aquinas School over the past 50 years.

Following the Mass Mr Foley had the opportunity to welcome the many guests – both current and former staff and students that he knew; and former staff, students and friends of our school that were at the school before his time. Mr Foley said it was a privilege to particularly welcome John Beard, teacher and past students from the Foundation Year of the school all of whom received a warm ovation.

Mr Foley then introduced a special message from founding headteacher, Paul Olsen, recorded on 14 May on his 90th Birthday. Naturally, Paul was at the centre of the photograph showing the Foundation Year and alongside him sat a young English teacher, John Bartlett who took over from Paul as headteacher in 1974 and served the school for 30 years until his retirement in 1993. John too had recorded a message which was warmly appreciated by everyone but it was particularly pleasing that, despite poor health in recent years, John was able to attend for the Mass and the meal afterwards. Monsignor Tim presented John with a commemorative plaque, taken from an Altar, made by Wyn Richards, former technology teacher at the school. The Altar was made especially for the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Coventry Airport on 30th May 1982. A plaque had also been made for Paul Olsen, which would be delivered personally to Mr Olsen by James Ingram and Jim Foley during the summer holidays.

Mr Foley finished his speech by thanking James Ingram, Sharon Williamson and Pete Roberts, author of Tommy's Volumes 1 and 2, for everything they had done in the planning and preparation of the jubilee celebrations and they were presented with a token of the school’s appreciation

Mr Foley was then surprised by Marina Kelly, former deputy head of our school, now head teacher of Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Coventry, as she got up to speak about his long tenure as headteacher at the school. Marina spoke eloquently about Jim’s contribution to the school over the years and thanked him for his service. Marina then presented Jim with his own commemorative plaque also made
from the special, Blessed Pope John Paul, Altar.

It was a truly lovely and fitting end to the more formal proceedings that were part of the celebrations of our Golden Jubilee.

Anne-Marie Tibbits
Lay Chaplain


Jubilee Mass - 27 September 2013

From the start of the planning for the School’s Jubilee celebrations it had always been the intention that the school would celebrate the jubilee as a community during the year. The thanksgiving Mass, to be held exactly 50 years to the month that the school started, was intended to involve all students in the jubilee celebration and to this end every member of the school community came together on Friday 27th September at 9.15am.

It was fitting for our own school chaplain, Fr Jan, celebrated this Mass as Archbishop Bernard Longley had celebrated Mass during our Mission week and former student and Vicar General; Monsignor Tim Menezes celebrated the Thanksgiving Mass in July. We were also delighted that Fr. Bill Wilton, former teacher at our school was able to join us to concelebrate the Mass.

Before Mass started we symbolically passed on the light of faith in our school in a procession, this was read by Assistant Head, Gill O’Reilly. In the procession 3 experienced members of staff Alex Flood, Christine Lockyear and Fred Stephenson processed with candles symbolising the light of faith, accompanying them was head boy, Greg Stanley, carrying the statue of St Thomas Aquinas. 3 members of staff, Jude Devlin, Timothy James and Sarah Lattimer, who had attended St Thomas Aquinas school as students then processed and lit their candles from the experienced staff candles. They in turned passed on their light to 3 students from year 8, 9 and 10, John Hardy, Hannah Kenny and Charlotte Behan.

During the procession former staff, students, governors and chaplains that had served the school and have now passed away were also remembered, with the school's Book of Remembrance being brought forward by John Houston, PE teacher, and former student, and placed at the foot of the Altar along with a large crucifix, carried by teacher, and Head of Year 13, Liz James, and accompanied by a candle carried by student, Hershey Abrina. It was a moving start to a prayerful Mass.

Many other staff and students took part in the Mass. The introduction was read by Head Girl Catherine Laverty and year 13 student, Amanda DeValliere. Gemma Baker, year 12 student, read the first reading, while Nuala Hickey, longstanding staff member read the Responsorial Psalm. and Tara Carter, former student and now maths teacher and Haydn Cadogan, year 12 student, read the Bidding Prayers.

As at the July Mass our wonderful student choir led the singing in the Mass and they were superb, they worked hard to practice the pieces and the Mass setting The choir was again very ably led by Martina Moran, Head of RE and the piano was played by Miss Moran’s sister Alexandra Tun, who very kindly stepped in because Mrs Bentley was unable to play. Other musicians were Assistant Head, Richard Smith, on guitar and Head of Performing Arts, Mary Johnson on violin and students Haydn Cadogan, on violin, John Tibbits on guitar and Olivia Young, on flute.


During Communion the choir sang ‘Christ, our Lord forever’, written especially for the jubilee Celebrations by former student, Hugh Tibbits.
The Mass really was the most wonderful celebration full of joy and thanks for the many blessings bestowed on St Thomas Aquinas School over the past 50 years.

Following the Mass Mr Foley had the opportunity to talk about the school’s jubilee celebrations and showed the students photographs of founding headteacher, Paul Olsen and also John Bartlett who took over from Paul as headteacher in 1974 and served the school for 30 years until his retirement in 1993.

We were very privileged to have former teacher Pete Roberts, who is also author of Tommy's Volumes 1 and 2,at the celebratory Mass and Mr Foley talked about his own son’s experience of being taught history by Pete and went on to say that he judged Pete to be one of the most outstanding teachers he had worked with.

As always when we come together for any spiritual occasion the students’ behaviour was excellent. Feedback about the Mass from both staff and students was very complementary, saying it was a lovely reflection of the jubilee. Staff were particularly complimentary about the music, and everyone agreed it was a truly wonderful way to celebrate the jubilee with the whole school community.


Lay Chaplain

5. St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School Day 2019

On Monday 28th January, we celebrated our patron saint’s feast day with a very spiritual Mass and an amazing assembly.

In Mass, we had five former teachers and students who are now priests. Fr Tim led the mass with Fr Gerry, Fr Bill, Fr Eammon and Fr Peter. At the end of Mass, a representative from St Mary’s India came and spoke to us about the work they do and how they help all the children in need. The charity helps unfortunate children in India gain a free education with our support and donations in the UK.

To end the special day there was a ceremony to award all of the students nominated as exceptional people who live out the values and virtues of our school. Each of them was presented with a certificate and a book. During the assembly, there were several performances by the GCSE Music students, Emily 11-BO and STACS Dance Ensemble.

It was a really great and spiritual day, allowing us to celebrate as a whole school community and giving us a strong sense of belonging.

Reece 9-JP, Faith 9-FI and Hana 9-MO 

Year 7
Demie and Nathan 7-BO
Laike and Zach 7-FI
Bethany and Jamie 7-JP
Hannah and Daniel 7-MA
Ellie and Evans 7-MO
Rhea and Callum 7-NE
Lola and Luca 7-RO
Chloe and Jake 7-TE

Year 8
Bethany andMiquel 8-BO
Leanne and Billy 8-FI
Gracie and Callum 8-JP
Milijana and Jacob 8-MA
Diya and Liam 8-MO
Kiya and Daniel 8-NE
Alice and Melvin 8-RO
Sienna and Jason 8-TE

Year 9
Oliwia and Harvey 9-BO
Faith and Kevin Lucas 9-FI
Tanya and Reece 9-JP
Sharon and Callum 9-MA
Marawah and Tawana 9-MO
Courtney and Liam 9-NE
Sandryne and Connor 9-RO
Leah and Rahul 9-TE

Year 10
Avni and Tioluwani 10-BO
Gayathiri and Allan Patrick 10-FI
Eleanor and Max 10-JP
Jainnen and Jamie 10-MA
Caitlin and Alwin 10-MO
Maggie and Pedro 10-NE
Tyanne and Harvey 10-RO
Anna and Phillip 10-TE
Year 11
Emily and Liam 11-BO
Joy and Kwaku 11-ETI
Karolina and Gideon 11-FI
Kate and Sam 11-JP
Caitlin and Mathew 11-MA
Aida and Luis 11-MAD
Tia and Vince 11-MO
Isabelle and Logan 11-NE
Ellie and Joseph 11-RO
Nicole and Joseph 11-TE

6th Form
Emma and Ryan 6th-ABA
Jane and Jacob 6th-ABI
Kayla and George 6th-ATP
Eleanor and Jack 6th-DSU
Georgia and Aaron 6th-JDO
Laurencia and Leo 6th-SED



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